This is going to be brief because All Star Friday is already underway and the rest of what we see this weekend will setup Monday through Thursday of next week once the dust is settled. While a trade is possible during All Star weekend, there is a lot going on for executives and they will prefer to be close to their war rooms rather than attending events, etc.
I’m going to break down things from a 30,000 foot level here, and then as we get closer to the deadline we’ll get down to the nitty gritty of what is going on and what specific goals owners should consider.
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SOME LIKE IT HOT
The deadline market is at a slow simmer right now as predictably there are more sellers than buyers and I covered much of that in the trade deadline preview, but there are certainly teams that stand out as motivated to make a move.
At the top of the list are the Sixers, Bobcats and Suns, followed by (in no order) the Celtics, Cavs, Nuggets, Warriors, Pelicans, Knicks and Wizards.
The Sixers are an obvious trade deadline squad as Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes and Thaddeus Young have dominated trade rumors all season long. Turner’s name has been the noisiest of the bunch lately, but it wouldn’t be all that surprising if any one of them take the lead in that regard heading into Thursday. Reading all the various reports and talking to folks I’ve seen them ordered in every which way when it comes to likelihood of being dealt.
The rumor that has had the most substance and that makes the most sense (at this time) is one sending Turner to Charlotte for Ben Gordon’s expiring deal and a late first round pick that the Cats are getting from Portland. In my opinion, that sets the floor for talks on Turner and the Bobcats would most likely make that deal. Turner’s value will be crushed in Charlotte and in most if not all other places, and the takeaway here is that unless Charlotte finds a better deal in say, Brandon Bass, the Sixers have something to leverage against other teams that may be interested in Turner.
Right now that list includes Phoenix as the most active deadline team that has been linked to him, and the Spurs might be the most interesting team from a reality basketball perspective. Atlanta and the Clippers have also been tied to Turner, but those are low level rumors without a lot of steam right now.
The good news for owners of Bobcat players like Al Jefferson, Kemba Walker and Josh McRoberts is that Turner wouldn’t steal much action from them. That said, McRoberts could lose his standard league ownership. Gerald Henderson is a fringe guy in standard leagues, anyway, and he’d have a hard time staying relevant in 14-team leagues with that development.
Phoenix and Charlotte are the clear second tier right now behind Philly when it comes to teams most likely to deal in advance of the deadline. The Suns have a very nice chip in the expiring deal of Emeka Okafor ($14.5M) that is covered mostly by insurance. That should set the stage for at least one sizable deal and along with their four first round picks in next year’s draft and plenty of young, movable contracts – owners of players like Gerald Green, P.J. Tucker and Markieff Morris should be considering what the future could look like if the Suns take back players or send one of them out. Obviously, Green is the guy that’s rolling right now that owners would like to see unfettered by deadline deals.
Phoenix would also be one of the few places in which Turner might hold some late-round value, but that can’t really be on the minds of owners right now. He’s a sell-high, buy-low guy from whichever angle one approaches it, as the gamble lies in whether or not you think he’ll stay or go. Right now it’s looking like go.
Thaddeus Young has also been linked to Phoenix, albeit in an understated way, and among the trio of Sixers that are in the rumor mill he’s the guy whose value isn’t immediately crushed by a move. He has been able to float mid-round value in the past as a secondary player, and assuming the Suns move one of their many hybrid 2-4s he would fit nicely in their system. Young was reportedly off the market about a week ago, but it’s impossible to put stock in that since his name continues to persist in the rumor mill.
Spencer Hawes has stayed out of any strong, specific rumors, though he was linked to Portland and the Mavs would certainly like to get him at the right price. That’s the rub with him. The Sixers want a first rounder and in a vacuum he’s not worth it, but as a big man in the NBA somebody could decide that he’s worth a late first-rounder.
The Suns have also resumed talks with the Lakers about Pau Gasol, in what is one of the more intriguing storylines of this year’s deadline. The Lakers would probably be willing to give him up for a late first-round pick and get out of the Gasol business altogether, knowing that he’s a complicated, expensive asset and bad fit for the Mike D’Antoni system. But Kobe Bryant is still calling the shots in L.A. and he likes Pau, and though he’s not tied to the hip he has reportedly been told that the Lakers will re-sign Gasol this summer and also add an impact free agent. The last talks with the Suns got held up because Phoenix was unwilling to part with a first rounder, but I think when push comes to shove they’ll be willing to offer their pick coming from Indiana at the end of the first round.
I don’t think Kobe will sign off on that and I’d expect the Lakers to be targeting picks from Minnesota (top-13 protected) and Washington (top-12 protected) that would be in the middle of the pack. If the Lakers and Suns don’t find anything better out there and they can come to that middle ground, then I think Gasol is playing in Phoenix.
Still in Phoenix, they are interested in Brandon Bass and so are the Warriors and probably a handful of other teams. The Suns have also been linked to Zach Randolph in what would be the deepest of sleeper moves at the deadline, but for now Memphis appears to be cold on the idea of moving him and Marc Gasol’s knee situation may be a bellwether of whether or not that changes. Owners shouldn’t move the needle on Z-Bo rumors at this time.
Bass, on the other hand, is among the most likely players to be dealt at this deadline and Boston is going to be tied to a lot of activity, though I wouldn’t call them an outright lock to make big moves. Bass is, indeed, a small move in the grand scheme of things. He is making $6.5M this year and $6.9M next year with playoff experience and the ability to start in a pinch or to be a much-needed interior scorer off the bench for the Warriors. The Bobcats are in the running there as well, as they seek to make the playoffs for the second time in franchise history. Josh McRoberts’ owners can probably wait that rumor out given his low upside in the first place.
Bass’ value would remain similar in Phoenix, be crushed in Golden State as well as in Charlotte. Perhaps the biggest takeaway is that the Boston frontcourt might get light, as Charlotte would probably toss in an expiring contract (Ramon Sessions?) and their late-first round pick from Portland to make a deal work. Kris Humphries’ expiring contract is also dangling on the market, and at a minimum Jared Sullinger’s value is probably as safe as it’s going to be this year. Guys like Jeff Green and Rajon Rondo have been in the rumor mill, but they’re both on the less likely side of being traded at this time. Everybody is for sale at a price, though, so don’t be surprised if Boston finds a way to make something happen. I just think their participation in this deadline is a bit overstated because of Danny Ainge’s past activity.
The Warriors are scrambling right now internally and they’re not going to panic but along with the interest in Bass they’ll be on the lookout for blockbuster deals or deals they can participate in as a third team. They have some nice trade exceptions that can be used and they’re willing to go into the tax for an impact guy, and along those lines they’re willing to move Klay Thompson or Harrison Barnes in a big deal. I wouldn’t move the needle on either of their value at this time.
The Cavs and Pelicans may have been at the top of this list a week ago but the firing of Chris Grant chilled things out a bit as they have a directive to make the playoffs, and the Pelicans’ fervor to make a deal isn’t matched by the assets they have. Indeed, they’d love to move Eric Gordon or Tyreke Evans, but teams aren’t breaking down any doors to get in on that action.
There has been some talk about Anderson Varejao for Omer Asik and also talk about whether or not the Cavs are as tied to Varejao as Grant previously was, but the Rockets aren’t a great fit for Varejao nor does Asik profile well next to Tristan Thompson, either. Color me skeptical so far there, especially with Terrence Jones playing the part right now. The Cavs also gave up a first round pick to obtain Luol Deng, so he’s not going to be a part of any fire sale by any means, but the reality is that the Cavs will have a hard time signing him this summer. Consider the Cavs a wild card this week.
Gordon was named by Gery Woelfel as somebody that the Bucks were interested in, but Basketball Insiders reported confidently that there was nothing going on there. The Bucks’ owner may be committed to Milwaukee but he sure has allowed a lot of Maloofian moves to be made, so put your tin foil hat on and start asking if he’s trying to get the team moved to Seattle. Woelfel usually has good info on the Bucks and the Insiders don’t have a track record there, so it wouldn’t surprise me if Woelfel knows something they don’t. Still, they’d have to be insane to make Gordon a priority. Moving along…
The Cavs will pursue deals but they reportedly told Dion Waiters he wasn’t going to be traded and his minutes instantaneously went back down to his normal 20-minute range the other night. Hmm. Along with New Orleans and New York, who is in the mill as much as any team in the association, they don’t have any strong rumors right now but are simply teams to watch.
The Nuggets and Wizards have front office connections and at a minimum they represent a buyer and a seller when it comes to backup point guard Andre Miller. Miller is out the door and along those lines Beno Udrih has been linked to both teams, with the Knicks also being tied up in a Kenneth Faried and Jordan Hamilton for Iman Shumpert and Udrih proposal (by NY). Udrih has also been linked to the Spurs and something is going to go down here, but for now Denver is cool on the idea of New York’s proposal. Faried is most certainly on the block no matter how much Denver denies it, and he’s a bit of a buy low/stash target knowing that Brian Shaw’s system could be at the root of his issues. Faried would be a great fit in New York if they can pull it off. On a random note, Shaw doesn’t sound like he’s having the greatest time in Denver and it’s possible the reason he couldn’t get a head coaching job for years is playing itself out.
Austin Rivers has also been put out there as a strong candidate to be traded, but he has no real fantasy value and owners can watch that action from the wire.
The Magic might have been on this hot list a few weeks ago, and maybe they’re simply slowplaying their hand all the way down to the wire, but they’ve been about as stone-faced and ambivalent about the deadline as a team with that many tradable assets could be. Arron Afflalo is the big draw here but virtually everything said about him is to the effect that Orlando isn’t breaking their back to move him. Jameer Nelson has a nice contract with a minimal guarantee next season but that might be more valuable this summer, and nobody is breaking down their door for Glen Davis. Still, that may end up being the reason that Big Baby is the most likely of the bunch to find a new home -- he'll come cheap. Tobias Harris hasn’t performed to owners’ expectations this year but he’s a guy I’d target knowing he’s probably not going anywhere and only stands to gain by this deadline.
The Pistons have also been among the top teams in the rumor mill because of Greg Monroe, but over the past few days they have signaled to reporters that they’re not necessarily opposed to matching a max offer, which he is likely to get this summer. The basic gist of it is that they’re not as strapped cap-wise if they do that as it might appear on the outset, and the Pistons feel he is a movable asset down the road as a max contract. Still, that avoids the question of whether or not Monroe, Josh Smith and Andre Drummond fit together and it’s more a sign that Detroit isn't getting any great offers right now. I’d call this one too close to call at this time.
SLEEPER TEAMS AND SLEEPER PLAYERS
The Hawks are rumored to be unhappy with the way things look at point guard with Jeff Teague and it would be interesting to see if they could find a way to move him. Nothing is imminent, though.
The Clippers are itchy to make a deal and they want to get rid of ice-cold Jared Dudley, but they have the look of opportunists right now. If the market gives them an opening, look for them to shoot the gap and take it.
The Wolves want to improve in order to keep Kevin Love on board but they’re basically operating on the secondary market. Dante Cunningham, J.J. Barea and Alexey Shved are available but nobody’s buying tickets to that show.
The Blazers need a backup big but they don’t have very much to work with trade-wise. C.J. McCollum would need to be included for any headline-making deal, and though some of the locals didn’t like it I still think they could look at Chris Kaman as a 10-15 mpg guy alternating with Meyers Leonard. At $3.2M expiring this season I can’t see the downside.
The Kings want to move all of their bad assets and Jimmer Fredette’s big night probably helped a little, but they’re going to focus on getting Isaiah Thomas’ backup and the local papers will probably make a big deal about it. Make no mistake, outside of an unknown blockbuster deal he’s safe. I’ve found it sad to see reputable national analysts getting caught up hedging their bets by saying Thomas has struggled on defense at times. He has small, correctable issues and sneaky ability to shut guys down. Rarely do opponents go at him in isolation and there is a reason why. A few rounds of tape would keep them from relying on some of the unfortunate local reports that have driven the discussion there, but in fairness, it’s a heavy lift to cover every team in detail. You’ve got to pick and choose who you believe out there because you can’t watch every game.
The Spurs and Thunder are the most likely of the contenders to make a move. OKC is looking for a wing and they have a first rounder they can deal, but they don’t have anybody that they like at this time. The Spurs can send out about $8 million in contracts to pick up a player that they like (Turner?), though they’re not typically active at the deadline.
The Jazz have about a million expiring deals including Richard Jefferson, Andris Biedrins, Marvin Williams and Brandon Rush. Williams is Ty Corbin’s favorite player and most attractive trade asset, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens there. Derrick Favors’ hip injury is in focus right now and Enes Kanter is a fine buy low target, though Corbin probably wants nothing to do with the twin tower look if he has any say over it. He might not have any say, though.
As mentioned before, Zach Randolph probably sticks in Memphis but he would look good as a one-year rental if you’re Dallas trying to take advantage of Dirk’s window. But that’s a deal that may get figured out after they determine what they can get for Shawn Marion’s expiring deal, and to date there has been absolutely no smoke on that. It doesn’t help that Marion has been down lately after a shoulder injury.
There’s much more out there than that, but that is a starting point for discussion this week. Again, follow our player news page and follow me on Twitter as we zero in on potential winners and losers as the smoke clears and the mud slowly falls off the wall.